Predators reach another playoff milestone — avoiding elimination

Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 12:44am

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Chalk up another first for the Nashville Predators.

Having failed five times previously, they finally avoided elimination in a playoff series when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 Saturday in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal. The Canucks put themselves in position to end things in their own building, Rogers Arena, when they won Games 3 and 4 in Nashville.

“We’ve taken a lot of steps this year in a lot of different areas,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s just one other thing that we had to do. Our backs were against the wall. We talked about ‘one game,’ and we’re going to talk about ‘one game’ again.”

Game 6 is 7 p.m. (CDT) Monday at Bridgestone Arena.

“We had to win a hockey game,” defenseman Shane O’Brien said. “We had no choice. We didn’t play very well on home ice. They came in and took two from us. … We’re excited we’re still playing hockey.”

Vancouver is now 1-4 in these playoffs when it has the chance to eliminate an opponent. It failed three times in its Western Conference quarterfinal series with Chicago before it finally advanced with an overtime victory in Game 7.

“Your back’s still against the wall,” David Legwand, who had two goals, said. “You’re 60 minutes away from a long summer or you’re 60 minutes away from extending [the series].

“… They’re a good hockey team. They struggled in their first series to close it out and we know that. We have to go home and just play our game again for 60 minutes.”

(Almost) another loss: The Predators lost Nick Spaling for a time during the second period after he absorbed a hard hit from Canucks’ defenseman Sami Salo behind the net.

Spaling was playing center in place of the injured Jerred Smithson. He ultimately was limited to just 9:45 of ice time but was not expected to miss any time going forward.

“He’s a tough kid,” Trotz said. “He’s fine.”

Smithson’s status for Game 6 is unclear.

“I don’t really have an update on him,” Trotz said. “And I’m not going to tell you anyways. I’m just going to be honest. I’m not going to tell you.”

Earlier in the series, the Predators lost Steve Sullivan to a lower body injury.

Scoring again: Mike Fisher got his first point of the series and snapped a five-game scoreless streak with the primary assist on Ward’s second goal.

“I’ve had some chances and I’ve been working,” he said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go. You just keep getting pucks to the net, get on the same page with your linemates and just work.”

Fisher had just one shot on goal. His linemates for the majority of the contest, Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn, had two and zero, respectively.

Limited role: With Smithson out, J-P Dumont played for the first time in the series and the third time in the playoffs. He logged just 7:49 of ice time, the fewest among all players for both teams, and had a minus-2 rating.

Colin Wilson was in the lineup for the second straight game but was on the ice for just 8:01.

Briefly: Nashville had 10 shots in the third period, which snapped a streak of five straight in which the team was held to single digits. … None of the Predators’ four goals included both a primary and secondary assist. Legwand scored one unassisted and the other three all had just one assist. … Nashville was woeful in the faceoff circle with just 29 wins in 76 attempts. More often in this series, the team that has been most successful in the faceoff circle has won.